State To Return Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery To Local Tribal Interests

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

CDFW photo

CDFW Takes Steps to Return Land to California Tribe

After years of discussion, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will transfer 40-plus acres of the historic Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery in Inyo County to the Fort Independence Indian Community, which is recognized as one distinct separate tribal government of the four Owens Valley Paiute Tribes. The Wildlife Conservation Board approved the no-cost transfer last week. When the transfer is complete, it will mark CDFW’s first ever land return to a California Native American tribe.

“This act is momentous and aligns with many ambitions laid out for California by this Administration,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “It honors Governor Newsom’s Executive Order encouraging the transfer of excess lands to California Native American tribes and it is a Nature Based Solution that contributes to the goals of 30×30. I am proud to be a part of this transfer.”

The historic hatchery structures, residences and other buildings cover approximately 19 acres. The remaining 21+ acres have native plant vegetation including shrubland, and oak and willow riparian habitat adjacent to Oak Creek. Willow flycatcher, a special-status species, is known to use property as habitat.

“Water is an integral part of Paiute culture, history and social structure,” said Tribal Chairman Carl Dahlberg. “Our Indigenous Paiute members settled on the banks of the Oak Creek since time immemorial and these lands have always been sacred to our people. Our worldview values the delicate ecosystem which connects us to this land which traditionally was a cultivation site for indigenous plants, such as taboose and nahavita. This property is inextricably intwined into who we are as Paiute people and we hope to bring this knowledge and history back to the community through the preservation of the Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery.”

Owned by CDFW since 1916, the hatchery historically produced different trout species for planting until whirling disease was discovered there in 1984. Because the disease does not infect eggs, production of trout eggs continued there until 2007. In July 2008, the property was severely damaged from flood and mudslide and temporarily closed to the public. An interpretive center operated by the Friends of Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery remains open today. The Tribe is committed to protecting wildlife habitats and native plants, using the resources prudently and making the property open to all.